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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Viettel launches service, 500,000 subscribers gained

Viettel launches service, 500,000 subscribers gained

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Mobile network owned by Vietnamese military officially lauches its Metfone network after three-month trial period

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

A Metfone employee at Thursday’s launch.

THE latest mobile phone company to start up in Cambodia, Viettel, officially launched its Metfone service Thursday after a major nationwide drive to gain a foothold in the Kingdom's increasingly competitive mobile market.

Viettel - which is wholly owned by the Vietnamese military - has gained more than 500,000 subscribers in the Kingdom since beginning a trial launch three months ago, it said, largely by distributing free SIM cards. It already has more than 1,000 transmitter stations countrywide and 5,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable, including remote islands, according to a company press release to coincide with the launch on Thursday.

The company, which also plans to become an internet service provider, says it has established 50 stores countrywide. "Our target is 100 stores across the country," it said. Viettel obtained a licence to operate in Cambodia in June 2007.

One industry source said that the entry of Viettel could shake up a telecoms industry that has long been dominated by Mobitel.

"[Viettel] has close relations with the Cambodian military and will seriously challenge the existing companies," said the source, who requested anonymity.

Cambodia's major mobile operators are Mobitel with a 63 percent share of the market, CamShin with 18 percent and TMIC at 15 percent. Cambodia currently has 2.6 million mobile users.

Viettel - which is run by General Director Major General Hoang Anh Xuan -  is among the top three telecommunications firms in Vietnam. The company is set to privatise, but a 51 percent stake will stay in the military's hands. Viettel is also active in Laos with plans to open offices in Myanmar, North Korea and Venezuela, Vietnamese state media have reported.

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